Entering his 24th season as the head coach at Arizona, David Rubio has turned the Wildcat volleyball program into one that not only contends in the dominant Pac-12 Conference, but on a national level as well.
In 23 seasons at the helm of the Arizona program, Rubio has led the Wildcats to 17 NCAA Tournament appearances, which has included a trip to the Final Four, four Elite Eight appearances and seven trips to the Sweet 16.
Despite playing a challenging non-conference slate every year before the grueling Pac-12 season, Rubio's teams are consistently ranked in the polls. The Wildcats had a streak of 30 straight weeks in the Top 10 in the American Volleyball Coaches Association poll from 2000-03. In 2000 and again in 2001, his teams ranked as high as No. 3 in the poll, the highest ranking of any team in school history.
Inheriting a program that did not win a single conference match the season prior to his arrival, Rubio has guided the Wildcats to a 440-263 (.626) overall record and has won 562 matches in his 28-year collegiate coaching career. In 2000 he guided Arizona to its first ever Pac-10 title.
Rubio's tireless recruiting efforts have seen more athletic and highly regarded student-athletes opting for Arizona. During his tenure, he has recruited over 30 athletes listed as Volleyball Magazine Fab 50 recruits (the magazine ranks the Fab 50 from first through 50th in order of the impact they are expected to make in college volleyball). His recruiting class in 2002 (Jennifer Abernathy, Meghan Cumpston, Kim Glass and Bre Ladd) was the top-ranked freshman class in the nation. He followed that the next three years with classes that featured a pair of members of the Fab 50 list, and his 2006 class was ranked fourth in the nation. Rubio also nabbed a pair of Volleyball Magazine Fab 50 recruits for the 2007 season, a trio in 2008, two in 2011, one in 2012 and one in 2013.
At Arizona, Rubio has recruited and coached four first-team All-Americans, including Arizona's first ever consensus two-time honoree, an AVCA Freshman of the Year, a Pac-10 Player of the Year, 30 all-conference performers, 15 all-conference freshman players and 51 academic all-conference athletes. Wildcat athletes have also earned 32 Pac-10 Player of the Week honors under his guide.
After missing the NCAA Tournament in 2012 with one of the youngest teams in the country, Rubio has led his team to two consecutive NCAA Tournament berths, a pair of second-round appearances. Rubio has led Arizona to five NCAA appearances in the last six years.
Last season, fueled by All-America seasons from Madi Kingdon and Penina Snuka, the Arizona volleyball team turned in one of the best seasons in program history. After being selected ninth in the preseason Pac-12 poll, the Wildcats went 12-8 in league play and finished third in a conference that sent a record 10 teams to the NCAA Tournament.
Overall, Rubio’s Wildcats went 24-10 and earned the No. 11 seed in the NCAA Tournament, good for a host of the first two rounds. The Wildcats fell to BYU, the eventual national runners up. Arizona finished the season ranked 16th in the AVCA Division I Coaches Poll, its highest finish since 2005.
In 2014, the Wildcats finished a strong 16-3 at home, which included a sweep of No. 1-ranked USC. Madi Kingdon earned AVCA honorable mention All-America honors, AVCA All-West Region, First-Team All-Pac-12 and twice earned Pac-12 Player of the Week honors. Meanwhile, setter Penina Snuka was named to the Pac-12 All-Freshman Team and was honorable mention all-region, while twice earned Pac-12 Freshman of the Week honors.
Before the 2012 season, the Wildcats had advanced to the NCAA Tournament in three straight seasons, while compiling at least 19 victories in each of the three years. In those three seasons, Tiffany Owens (2010) and Cursty Jackson (2011) were named First-Team All-Pac-12, while Madi Kingdon (2011) and Chloe Mathis (2011) earned Pac-12 All-Freshman honors.
Rubio and the Wildcats finished above .500 in 2008 with the Wildcats posting a 16-14 record, just missing the NCAA tournament. Arizona pulled off three upset wins over top-11 teams, including No. 11 USC, No. 8 Oregon and No. 6 Cal.
In 2005, Rubio led his team to one of the best seasons in school history. The squad went 25-6, with all six losses coming at the hands of ranked teams. Arizona finished second in the Pac-10 with a 14-4 record, its best conference mark since 2001. The Wildcats advanced to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament, where they heartbreakingly lost in five games to Santa Clara.
Senior Kim Glass was named to the AVCA All-America first team, while senior Jennifer Abernathy was named to the third team. Glass and Abernathy were also named to the All-Pac-10 team. Meanwhile, senior Bre Ladd, junior Kristina Baum and sophomore Dominique Lamb were honorable mention selections, and Brittany Leonard was named honorable mention All-Freshman.
In addition, the 2005 season was one of personal milestones for Rubio, as he notched his 400th career victory when the Wildcats defeated Ohio in the Sweet 16 on Dec. 9. Earlier in the year, he became Arizona's career wins leader, surpassing Rosie Wegrich.
In 2004, injuries plagued the Wildcats, yet Rubio was able to lead the team to the second round of the NCAA Tournament, where it lost a heartbreaking five-game match to host San Diego. Arizona finished the season 19-11 overall and 10-8 in the dominant Pac-10, which featured three of the teams in the Final Four.
Glass, who missed the entire non-conference slate with a shoulder injury, was named All-Pac-10 for the third consecutive year. Senior Jolene Killough was also named to the All-Pac-10 squad and finished her career ranked second in the Arizona record books with a .349 hitting percentage. Ladd was an honorable mention All-Pac-10 pick.
Losing a pair of All-Americans, Rubio's coaching abilities shined in 2002. Fielding a team with a transfer setter and four freshmen playing major roles, Rubio led the Wildcats to a third-place finish in the Pac-10 and the right to host the first and second rounds of the NCAA Tournament. He guided the Wildcats to opening round wins and an upset victory of Minnesota in the Sweet 16, giving Arizona its seventh straight 20-win season, a third-straight trip to the Elite Eight and UA's third consecutive Top 10 final ranking. Glass, playing in her first season under Rubio, was named the AVCA National Freshman of the Year and a second team All-American. Glass and Ladd also became the first pair of newcomers to be named All-Pac-10 Freshman in the same season at Arizona.
In 2001, Rubio's decade-long effort to build the Arizona program into a national power came to fruition. Returning the 2000 Pac-10 Player of the Year, All-American setter Dana Burkholder, and three other starters, the squad entered the season as the sixth-ranked team in the nation, the highest preseason ranking in school history. The lofty expectations and the implementation of rally scoring did little to alter Arizona's course with history, as the Wildcats remained among the top seven teams nationally all year and concluded the regular season 21-4 overall, 14-4 in the Pac-10 and fourth in the national poll.
While home court advantage eluded Rubio and his team, the Wildcats took to the road in the postseason and never looked back. Heading to Champaign, Ill., for the first and second rounds, the Wildcats easily handled Eastern Illinois and host Illinois to advance to their third-straight Sweet 16 appearance. Traditional national power Pacific proved not to be up to Arizona's challenge in the regional semifinals, as the Wildcats won 3-0, paving the way for a showdown with Pac-10 rival and regional host USC in the Elite Eight.
The two rivals battled it out in a five-game thriller that saw Rubio's Wildcats emerge victorious, despite trailing 12-9 in the decisive fifth game. The monumental victory elevated Rubio and the Arizona program into uncharted territory - the first Final Four appearance ever. Burkholder's was named NCAA Regional MVP, while classmate Jill Talbot tallied All-Regional Team honors.
Though a three-game loss to unbeaten and eventual runner-up Long Beach State in the national semifinals the following weekend ended Arizona's season, it could not mar the excellent year that Rubio and the Wildcats enjoyed. The breakthrough season ended with the Wildcats posting a final record of 25-5 overall and a No. 4 ranking in the final poll.
Burkholder and Talbot both garnered first-team All-America honors from the AVCA, the first two players in school history to be named All-America in the same season. Burkholder was also named first-team All-America by Volleyball Magazine, making her the first ever two-time consensus honoree at Arizona. Talbot garnered third-team honors from the publication. The pair, along with junior Lisa Rutledge, were also tabbed with AVCA All-Pacific Region honors, as well as first-team All-Pac-10 awards.
Rubio was named the ASICS/Volleyball Magazine National Coach of the Year. The honor placed him among elite company in the history of Arizona athletics, joining an exclusive list of men's basketball coach Lute Olson, swimming coach Frank Busch, softball coach Mike Candrea and former Arizona coaches Dave Murray (men's cross country), Todd McCorkle (women's golf) and Jerry Kindall (baseball) as the only head coaches in school history to be recognized with the national honor at Arizona.
In 2000, Rubio's team also lived up to and exceeded the preseason expectations. Selected No. 10 in the preseason poll, the 28-5 Wildcats maintained a place in the Top 10 for 14 of the 16 polls, finishing No. 4 in the final poll. Picked to finish fourth in the conference, Rubio's team won its first-ever Pac-10 title. It was an impressive feat considering that, since conference play began in 1986, no team other than UCLA or Stanford had won a conference title. As a result, Rubio earned his first Pac-10 Coach of the Year honors.
Hosting the first and second rounds of the NCAA Tournament, the Wildcats swept both Alabama A&M and Michigan. The victories advanced the Cats to a second-consecutive regional semifinal. In Lincoln, Neb., Arizona easily handled BYU for the second time that season to move on to its first Elite Eight appearance ever. Eventual national champion Nebraska proved to be too much to handle, handing Arizona its only 3-0 loss to end the historic season.
Along with the team accomplishments, Rubio's players fared well in postseason accolades. Setter Burkholder was named first-team AVCA All-America and Pac-10 Player of the Year, and to the NCAA All-Central Region team, the AVCA All-Pacific Region team and the All-Pac-10 team.
Marisa DaLee joined Burkholder on the AVCA All-Pacific Region team, while Allison Napier joined the pair on the All-Pac-10 team, the most all-conference performers ever in a single season for UA.
In 1999, Rubio led the Cats to a 21-11 mark and took them to their sixth-straight NCAA Tournament. The then-18th-ranked Wildcats downed Virginia in the first round, then went on to log an upset sweep of host Texas. The second-lowest-ranked team to earn a Sweet 16 berth, the Cats faced Pac-10 foe and eventual national runner-up Stanford. Arizona took a game from the Cardinal before bowing out of the tournament. Arizona ended the year ranked No. 14 in the nation. Both DaLee and Burkholder were All-District VII and All-Pac-10 selections.
The 1998 season saw the coach take a club with just one returning starter and six freshmen to 22 victories, the most since 1982. Middle blockers DaLee and Keisha Johnson earned All-Pac-10 accolades, and Burkholder was named to the league's All-Freshman squad. Arizona fell to eventual national champion Long Beach State in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
The previous year, the Cats had also exceeded all expectations, matching their then-best-ever finish in Pac-10 play, tying for fourth with a 12-6 mark. They went 20-6 and were ranked in the Top 10 throughout November. For just the second time, Arizona had a pair of athletes earn All-Pac-10 honors - Erin Aldrich and Carolyn Penfield.
Rubio had already established himself as one of the great young coaching talents before arriving at Arizona. He came to Tucson from Cal State Bakersfield, where he had developed one of the nation's winningest Division II programs. In five seasons, he coached seven All-Americans, led the Roadrunners to three consecutive Top 5 finishes and won the 1989 national championship. Rubio was honored as the ASICS Tiger Coach of the Year in 1989, and in 1991 was honored as the CCAA Coach of the Year.
Rubio served as an assistant coach for Cal State Northridge's men's team in 1983 and then for the women's team in 1985, helping them win a national championship. He began his coaching career in 1978 as the boys' coach at Granada Hills High School. He spent time as an assistant at Pierce College before taking the Chatsworth High School girls' team to the league championship in 1982. Prior to his arrival at Bakersfield, Rubio spent four years as coach of the women's team at Westlake High School.
As a player, Rubio was an all-conference and all-state volleyball selection at Cal State Northridge. Prior to his time at Cal State Northridge, Rubio starred at Pierce College, where he was inducted into the athletics Hall of Fame in 2012. A volleyball clinician and grass tournament entrepreneur, he is highly recognized for his extensive community involvement.
Rubio graduated from Cal State Northridge in 1982 with a B.A. in physical education. Born on June 20, 1959, he is married to the former Amanda Sebbas. They have a daughter, Olivia, and twins Dylan and Lucy.